UK IT professionals express concerns about government’s generative AI goals

As the Global AI Safety Summit prepares to bring together leaders from around the world in November, research reveals that a large majority of UK IT professionals are concerned about the government’s ambitions for the use of generative AI (GenAI).

To be held at Bletchley Park on 1-2 November 2023, the Global AI Safety Summit will consider the risks of artificial intelligence and aims to develop a positive regulatory environment for global use. Yet nearly three-quarters of IT teams believe there is a gap between the government’s goals to become a global leader in AI, and the digital skills available.

The research report released by publisher and conference organiser O’Reilly discloses the concerns that 93% of UK IT professionals have around advances in generative AI. The research reveals a quarter of IT professionals say they are not confident in their organisation’s current capabilities to ensure compliance with evolving regulations, and half feel “somewhat” confident that their companies have the skills needed to match with regulations.

Conducted by Censuswide in September 2023, the research reviewed 500 UK IT professionals to examine the investment in the learning and development of GenAI and potential issues for wide use.

The data shows that over half of the organisations invested over £15,001 in generative AI over the past 12 months, and 44% confirmed that their companies have plans to spend £25,001-£50,000 on generative AI systems over the next 12 months.

Despite organisations’ current and planned investments, the research suggests that workplace policies and training programmes are not keeping pace. Even with the UK government’s National AI Strategy to increase the use of artificial intelligence, IT professionals are concerned by the lack of AI-related training for all employees, as it could cause advanced security threats posed by AI.

Indeed, according to IT teams, 32% of staff outside the IT department have only been offered limited training, and 36% have not been offered any training at all about GenAI and its impact in the workplace. Within IT departments, the survey reveals that 40% of staff members have received limited training opportunities on how to use generative AI to advance current IT services and practices, and 30% have received no training at all.

Commenting on the outcomes of the research, Alexia Pedersen, vice-president of EMEA at O’Reilly, said: “Organisations should continue to invest in generative AI to remain innovative and competitive.

“At the same time, they must also ensure that staff are adequately trained and that robust workplace policies are in place. This is not only a strategy for improved recruitment and retention in the face of a widening skills gap, but also a necessary step to guarantee ethical and safe AI deployments if Britain wants to fulfil its global ambitions.”

The research shows that IT professionals are seeking external AI-related learning opportunities – 82% would appreciate more learning and development opportunities to help advance their current roles, and 43% have sought external training over the past year.


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